Traveling Independence Pass by bike, hike, skin and ski
Karin Teague isn’t the kind of nonprofit executive director who spends a lot of time behind a desk. The nature of her job at the Independence Pass Foundation is to be outside.
To check conditions on the pass Thursday required a combination of biking, hiking, skinning and skiing. At 8 a.m. Teague and two companions, Greg Albrecht and myself, departed on mountain bikes from the closure gate at mile marker 47. We were able to bike about 6.5 miles before icy conditions made riding treacherous.
We stashed our bikes atop a six-foot high snow bank beside the road between Lincoln Creek and the Braille Trail and hoofed it a mile or so where we could put climbing skins on our skis. That was the farthest point that the Colorado Department of Transportation maintenance crew had been able to plow at that point. The snow past there was about waist high on Highway 82.
We put skins on our skis and slogged past Lower Lost Man, Independence ghost town and slowly made our way toward the top cut. I had to bail just shy of Upper Lost Man, at mile maker 58.5, because of agony of the feet. My heavy, metal alpine touring gear isn’t well-suited for touring on relatively flat terrain, so I developed blisters.
Teague and Albrecht continued on to the summit at mile marker 61.
Toward the end of the day Thursday, the CDOT crew had plowed the road up to Independence, clearing about 3 miles since the morning and leaving only about 4 miles to clear to the summit.
The ghost town is the finish line for the 25th annual Ride for the Pass, a fundraiser for Independence Pass Foundation. Teague was reassured by what she saw that the event will come off as planned May 18.
“I would say the ride is looking great,” she said.
The ride starts at the closure gate at 10 a.m. and the finish line is 10 miles away. The fee is $45 for individuals and $75 for families with pre-registration. To register go to http://www.independencepass.org.
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A new 6-mile jug handle trail has been added to the Emma side of land known as the Crown. The Vasten Trail provides options for mountain bikers in the popular area.